Monday, December 31, 2012

Training: 12/24/12 - 12/30/12

CrossFit WOD 12-24-12

  • Xmas Eve WOD - huge turnout today, about 40 people! If any of us thought that mercy might be shown because of the holiday, we were sorely mistaken. The workout:
    • 1x Hand Stand Push Up 
    • 2x Pistols 
    • 3x V-Ups 
    • 4x Jumping Lunges 
    • 5x Burpees 
    • 6x Wallballs 
    • 7x Kettlebell Swings 
    • 8x BoxJumps 
    • 9x Double Unders (I did 27x Singles instead) 
    • 10x Pull-ups 
    • 11x Kettlebell High Pulls 
    • 1200 Meter Run
  • Doesn't sound too bad, right? It was a 12 Days of Xmas theme, however, which meant that, as each exercise was completed, the previous ones were done again. I.E., 3x V-Ups, then 2x Pistols, then 1x Handstand Push-Up...all the way up to the 1200 meter run, then 11x kettlebell high pulls, 10x pull-ups, 9x double unders, and so on, down to the handstand push-up. We were paired up, and each went one at a time, so a short break was earned each exercise, but it was definitely not enough. I can honestly say that it was a most intense workout - my partner and I finished in 36:50, which was in the middle of the group overall. The thing I love about CrossFit is that it is something new each time, is brutally hard, and is over relatively quickly. 
  • Signed on for 3 more months, committed, at least financially. 
Wednesday: CrossFit
  • WAY too sore to go in today, decided it wasn't worth hurting myself, so took the day off.
  • Plumber and electricians came in, plumber complete for now, electricians unfortunately did much less than we had hoped, will have to return after floors are complete.
Thursday: CrossFit
  • Woke up feeling REALLY sick, apparently Gaigai gave me her holiday illness - head congested, raspy cough; even if I had felt up to it, not fair to the other CrossFitters for me to show up and spread the love.
  • Old vinyl floors torn out in kitchen and entryway, new floors pieced in and laid down, looks great. Friday the floors should be sanded, sealed, and finished.
Altra Zero Drop SuperiorsPolarUSA FT40

Sunday: Run
  • Felt a lot better, so took a nice easy run with Laima around the neighborhood, last run of the year, hard to believe! Cold run, 13 degrees, but no wind, so after a cold start, got pretty comfortable, good job layering today. Enjoying the Altra Zero Drop Superior trail running shoes (worked fine on sidewalk and grass today), and still learning my way around my new Polar USA FT40 Heart Rate Monitor watch - no GPS is strange, but I've used it indoors climbing stairs and will try it out at CrossFit tomorrow, so definitely see some uses.
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Friday, December 28, 2012

Closer to the Ground Book Review

Like many people, I have a dual personality, with one part yearning for a simpler, quieter life close to nature, yet also loath to give up the pleasures of civilization. I recently read a book by Dylan Tomine, who has managed to structure his life so that he has the best of both worlds. Living on a relatively undeveloped island, Tomine and his family grow and gather food, be it in their garden or in a forest or on the water. Yet they also live a short ferry ride from Seattle, a cosmopolitan city if there ever was one.

Closer to the Ground book cover

Tomine's book, Closer to the Ground: An Outdoor Family's Year on the Water, in the Woods, and at the Table (Ventura, CA: Patagonia Books, 2012), is an easygoing telling of four seasons in his family's life. He, his children, and sometimes his wife, search for mushrooms, go fishing, hit the beach for clam digging, garden, berry pick, and much more. All this activity has a two-fold purpose: enjoy their time at the dining table as sustainably and personally as possible, and explore the nature that surrounds them, from forest to sea to their backyard.

Gardening I can agree with, mushroom picking as well, but I am still loath to shoot a deer or go fishing - that's a personal predilection on my part. Tomine writes in such a simple, unassuming way, that even these activities that I disagree with come across as simple living. No preaching or missionary work here. What resonates the most for me are that his children are front and center for pretty much everything, learning about nature's cycles, what humans are doing to interrupt nature's processes, and what it means to be as sustainable as possible while still retaining some of today's comforts (actually, quite a few).

Tomine's stories remind me quite a bit of my own childhood, specifically growing up near the Pacific Ocean in Huntington beach, CA. Oil derricks, landfills, and channelled waterways were all clear signs of the degradation of nature, yet the ocean was literally at our feet. Ironically, while I cannot eat anything from the sea, I practically grew up in the salt water, skin diving, bodysurfing, visiting tide pools and so much more. Like Tomine, our parents showed us how to harvest nature, both from our backyard garden (fruit trees, produce) and head for the ocean as well. I well remember clam digging as a family, looking for telltale signs that clams were below the surface of the sand, then digging them up and tossing them into buckets. Even more memorable were the Grunion Runs - times when small fish would teem along the shore, usually late at night under a full moon. Looking around the beach, trash can fires keeping everyone warm, huge amounts of the fish were netted from the waves hitting the shore, to be taken home to be prepared in sundry ways.

Closer to the Ground hits very close to me, both as a memory-jogger and as an example of how such a life can be lived pretty much anywhere. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in living with and in nature, especially as it relates to family.

Dylan Tomine

About the Author: Dylan Tomine, formerly a fly fishing guide, is now a writer, conservation advocate, blueberry farmer, and father, not necessarily in that order. Dylan's work has appeared in The Flyfish Journal, The Drake, Golfweek, The New York Times, and numerous other publications. He lives with his family on an island in Puget Sound.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this item for free to review on my blog. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Einstein - Find Simplicity

Einstein - Find Simplicity

As I write this, I am sitting at my dining room table, which is sitting in our lower level family room, which also house the refrigerator, an extra couch, and other assorted goodies from the main level of our house (we live in a split-level ranch consisting of four levels). Laima and I are gutting and remodeling our kitchen, during the winter holidays, perhaps not the least stressful time, yet it made a lot of sense when we planned it. :)

Yesterday the plumber came to move a gas line and stayed to re-route a vent and bring our kitchen sink drainpipe up to current code. During the entire day, electricians upgraded our electrical service (no electricity and consequently no heat for over 4 hours!) and started the electrical work for our new kitchen.

During all this, we've found time to shop for and wrap presents, have family meals, host Chicago Bears games, and generally keep our day to day lives as typical as possible. I took Monday and Tuesday for holiday celebrating (but mostly kitchen demo). It could have been a stressful time, yet hasn't been, which reminded me of this great quote from Albert Einstein:
"Out of clutter, find simplicity.
From dischord, find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."
As perfect a way to sum up what is going on right now as is possible!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The CrossFit Garage Gym: Jump Rope

The first article in a series that will chronicle my effort to create a decent CrossFit Garage Gym, without spending an inordinate amount of money. As a CrossFit beginner, I know I need to be practicing my skills outside of the Box -- a home gym is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Nike Weighted Jump Rope

Every CrossFit garage gym should have a good jump rope -- this allows you to work your cardiorespiratory efficiency and a CrossFit staple, the double unders. Jump rope sessions also lead to improvements in agility, balance, and coordination.

CrossFit HQ DoubleUnders:

Jump ropes are a versatile piece of equipment, being highly portable and not dependent on weather. To maintain your rope, use it as often as possible on softer surfaces such as rubber flooring and check often for wear and tear.

First step in buying a jump rope (or evaluating one you already have) is to size the jump rope. Most of what you will find researching the Internet is roughly the same:
To start, stand (with one foot) on the middle of the rope.
Then, pull straight up on the rope handles, making the jump rope taut.
If you are a beginner, the top of the handles should be around your shoulders.
For those with jump rope experience (or to make double unders easier), the top of the handles should be roughly at the armpits.
Should the jump rope reach above the shoulders, shortening the rope is suggested.
A jump rope can be shortened by knotting the rope below the handles, though this is a temporary fix. Check your manufacturer's website on how to shorten it permanently.
Years ago, Laima bought me a Nike Weighted Jump Rope (unfortunately not available anymore), which is a great beginner’s rope, in my opinion. It features weighted handles, is a moderate-swing-speed weighted rope, and the adjustable length fits users up to 6'6" tall. I especially appreciate the soft, contoured grips.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Training: 12/17/12 - 12/23/12

CrossFit Amplify Indoor Rowers

  • With little fanfare, CrossFit Elements is over, apparently we're ready after two weeks! Kind of scary, but so far things have been difficult, but not impossible. Humbling and inspiring to be with the big dogs in the regular class.
  • Strength: Push Jerk and Split Jerks. A Push Jerk is a progression of the push press in which an upward hip drive lifts the barbell, which helps in getting the load overhead, finishing with a catch under the bar. The Split Jerk is similar to the Push Jerk, but while the body is dropped downward, one foot is split forward and other backward as fast as possible while locking arms out overhead.
  • WOD: Tabatas (20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)
    Tabata Rows
    Rest 1 minute
    Tabata Squats
    Rest 1 minute
    Tabata Pull-ups
    Rest 1 minute
    Tabata Push-ups
    Holy cow, that was brutal, especially the order we did them in -- the rowing gassed me, then the air squats finished me off, and we still had pull-ups and push-ups to go!
  • Strength: Deadlift
  • WOD:
- Max Handstand Push-ups (HSPU) or Handstand (HS) Holds in 1 minute
- Rest 30 Seconds
- 3 Rounds Of:
• 30 Double Unders or 90 singles
• 12 Thrusters (#75/55)
- Rest 30 Seconds
- Perform same amount of HSPU or HS Holds from your first minute
- Rest 30 Seconds
- 3 Rounds Of:
• 30 Double Unders or 90 singles
• 12 Kettlebell Swings (#55/35)
- Rest 30 Seconds
- Perform same amount of HSPU or HS Holds from your first minute
Since so much of the skills were to me, I used as little weight as I could without embarassing myself - 53# for the thrusters and a 20# kettle bell. I surprised myself by holding the handstands for pretty much the whole minute each time!
    • The Mayans were incorrect and the world did not end, so things continued much as they had before. Kitchen demo started -- Laima and I are gutting the kitchen, including replacing the floors and removing a wall, so it's a big project. Add the holiday season and the stress level could get high. So far, so good. 
    • Went over to Amplify at 8:30ish for the 9:00 session, but no one was there, doors locked, so I left at 8:45 - maybe I missed a holiday hours announcement for today. The kitchen demo is giving me quite a work out, so it's not as big a deal as if I was lazing around the house. The demo must be done by Tuesday night, as the electricians and plumber are starting their work Wednesday.
    Hoping everybody has a great holiday week!

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    Friday, December 21, 2012

    Friday Fluff

    "The secret of health for both body and mind is not to mourn the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."

    Iron Warrior Dash

    Newly announced: the "Iron Warrior Dash is a 15-20 mile assault of ruthless terrain and best-in-class obstacles. This next level of the world's largest running series is the premier event in obstacle racing, offering athletes the ultimate challenge of becoming an Iron Warrior." Sounds like fun!

    Jason Auer "of Power" of the Talkin' Shit Podcast with comedians, Jim Jefferies and Eddie Ifft, prepares for the 2011 Reebok Crossfit Games. Problem is, that he hasn't qualified. That won't stop the Auer of Power.

    Have a great weekend!

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    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Three Things Thursday: Giveaways and more!

    Under Armour Storm Full Zip Hoodie Giveaway

    Laima is giving away an Under Armour Woman's Storm Full-Zip Hoodie over at Women's Endurance Gear! Armour Fleece Storm hoodies and sweatpants now have weather-battling, water-resistant finish to defy the rain -- the water beads right up, yet the inside feels like a soft comfy favorite, very cool. (Don't forget to enter my Under Armour Spine RPM Running Shoe giveaway -- a pair of Men's OR Women's is up for grabs!)

    B of A Chicago Marathon

    Registration for the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon will open on Tuesday, February 19th. The registration fee is $175 for U.S. participants and $200 for participants outside of the U.S! Laima and I had marked this as her marathon debut, so it's not going to be an inexpensive weekend, but Chicago has long been known as a great first marathon -- it was mine back in 1995, so it's kind of neat that Laima will run her first here as well. Have you ever paid $175 for a race entry?

    End of the World? No worries

    According to the Mayan Calendar, the world is ending this month. Fortunately, the Oreo cookie says not to worry. :)

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    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    (**ENDED) Under Armour Spine RPM Giveaway - Men's or Women's!

    Under Armour Spine RPM Giveaway

    I was really impressed with the Under Armour Spine RPM running shoes, much to my surprise, and further excited at how well they performed for CrossFit as well! Now is your chance to win a pair of the Men's Spine RPM in Graphite or the Women's Spine RPM in Neo Pulse (as pictured above). Simply do one or all of the following:
    1. Leave a comment on what you would use these for -- running, CrossFit, lazing around the house?
    2. Tweet this "I want to win the @UnderArmor Spine RPM Running Shoes #giveaway via @KovasP" - every day that you do, leave another comment for more chances!
    3. Share on Facebook, your blog, Instagram, wherever, and leave a comment with the link.
    Entries accepted from U.S. Residents only and will close at 11:59 PM, December 31st. Giveaway winner announced Tuesday, January 1st -- what a great way to start off the New Year! Shoes provided by Under Armour.

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    Under Armour Spine RPM Running Shoes

    Under Armour Spine RPM Running Shoes

    I must admit I was both excited and a bit leery when I received the Under Armour Spine RPM Running Shoes. Under Armour is not the first company I think of for running shoes, but that might change.  Under Armour worked with Tom Brady and Lindsey Vonn to develop this shoe, creating a combination of lightweight performance and support. They are good-looking shoes – I received the Graphite version, which is subtle and attention-grabbing at the same time, especially the bright yellow sole and laces. These were shoes that felt comfortable on the foot, but different than other running shoes. First, the sole is very stiff, and feels like it is made of a hard plastic, not a typical running shoe sole, to say the least. The sole is also very slick feeling out of the box, again, not a typical running shoe. I’ve read some complaints that the Under Armour running shoes in general don’t work for wide feet, but that wasn’t the case for me – the laces are easily adjustable and hold well in a variety of configurations.
    The Fundamentals- UA Spine chassis technology creates an incredibly light, flexible feel without sacrificing support.
    - Micro G® foam encapsulated within the chassis delivers unrivaled rebound and energy return.
    - Breathable mesh upper with seamless structural support at the midfoot and forefoot.
    - Solid rubber outsole provides full ground contact and superior traction, while carbon rubber adds durability in the heel.
    - Full length molded 4D Foam® sockliner and collar conform to your foot's exact shape, eliminating slippage.
    First time I ran in these shoes, I was surprised by the feeling of the stiff sole, as it felt not dissimilar to trail running shoes with rock plates. There was a bit of slap on the pavement, but that soon abated, and the slick soles I was worried about had no problem on wet sidewalks. I headed into Maple Woods Forest Preserve to check out their performance on the muddy, root-filled singletrack, as well as the groomed crushed grave paths. Surprisingly, the Spine RPMS worked well in both cases – the rigid sole gave me confidence to place my foot down without worry about sharp rocks or traction. The soles design also did not pick up pieces of gravel, something that happens on occasion with softer soles. By the end of that first run, the shoes felt like they had started to mold to my foot, the soles had softened (no more slap on the way home!), and I was feeling pretty good about these.

    The next test was to take them to my Box and try them out for CrossFit. I had a feeling that their light weight, snug fit, and rigid support would work well for me. We happened to be working on Push and Split Jerks, and the shoes felt great underfoot, allowing me to feel the ground, yet supporting me at the same time. Tabatas of rowing, air squats, pull-ups, and push-ups made me happy I’d worn these – their lightweight comfort never made me feel like my feet were dragging. They didn’t do my pull-ups for me though. :)

    This shoe might not work for everyone as a running shoe, as it did for me, though it’s definitely worth trying. I would definitely recommend it as an all-around fitness shoe though – great combination of light weight, support, and ground feel make working out a pleasure.

    Check out all the Under Armour Running and Training shoes  and come back tomorrow to get a chance to win a pair of the Spine RPMs for you or the man in your life!!

    Under Armour can also be found on Facebook  and Twitter.

    (Disclaimer: I was sent this item for free to review on my blog. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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    Monday, December 17, 2012

    CrossFit Elements Week 2

    CrossFit Amplify

    • Start of week 2, learned snatch lifts and bar-facing burpees today. Snatches are a lift wherein one tries to to lift a barbell from the ground to locked arms overhead, preferably in a smooth continuous movement. The lift starts with the barbell being lifted from the ground past the knees, then pulled up to the chin area and then flipped overhead. Bar-facing burpees mean that each burpee is done perpendicular to and facing the barbell. Your head cannot be over the barbell. The chest and thighs touch the ground at the bottom. You then jump over the barbell from both feet and land on both feet (not one-footed jumping or stepping over). The burpee and then jumping counts as one rep.
    • (Snatch Lift Practice Video - that's me in the blue shirt!)
    • WOD: For Time - 15 53# Snatches, 15 Bar-Facing Burpees, 12 53# Snatches, 12 Bar-Facing Burpees, 9 53# Snatches, 9 Bar-Facing Burpees.

    • Surprisingly, we stayed with Olympic lifting today, and learned how to power clean. The power clean starts with the barbell on the floor. The lifter then raises the bar up through a triple extension (in very quick succession) of the hips, knees and then ankles. When the legs have driven the bar as high as possible, the lifter pulls under the bar by shrugging, then high lifting, falling under the bar, and finally standing.
    • WOD: 12 - 85# power cleans, 10 second handstand, 9 - 85# power cleans, 10 second handstand, 6 - 85# power cleans, 10 second handstand. The handstands were the toughest part!
    • Woke up with my shoulder STILL on fire, took it very easy, and then made the executive decision to skip the evening class. Would rather play it safe at the beginning rather than take on more than I can handle and get injured right off the bat.
    • Made some progress on my CrossFit garage gym. Reinforced the rafters and put up a pull-up bar; simple black pipe from the hardware store, threaded at both ends -- through the rafters and then capped. I'll probably add some some sort of athletic tape to protect my hands.
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    Friday, December 14, 2012

    CrossFit Games History Video: 2007-2013

    CrossFit Games

    The CrossFit Games started in 2007 on a ranch in Aromas, CA. Since then, they've grown into an international competition showcasing some amazingly fit people. Not only that, but it's now big business -- Rich Froning and Annie Thorisdottir repeated their 2011 wins, once again earning the title "Fittest On Earth" and $250,000 each, courtesy of Reebok! Being a CrossFit beginner, I am in awe of the incredible strength on display -- doing three WODs a day is killer enough, let alone over a few days in a row.

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    Thursday, December 13, 2012

    Three Things Thursday (and a Giveaway!)

    Chicago Architecture
    Board of Trade and 311 S Wacker

    I only have to go into the city once a week for work these days, but, if you are a coworker of mine, you know how much I bitch and moan about even that one day. First world problems, right? :) One saving grace is that I get to walk among all the amazing Chicago Architecture that exists in the Loop where I work. Being in a taller building, I also get a vantage point that most pedestrians don't, so it's really the best of both worlds. Architecture has always had a strong pull on me, I even considered entering architecture school -- that ended quickly once it was apparent that there are just too few jobs to go around.

    Hole Saw Kit for Pullup Bar

    Having done a couple of weeks of the CrossFit elements, learning the basic moves, I'm excited about supplementing it and improving more quickly, by building a garage gym where I can do my own WODs. First project is a Pull-up Bar -- I purchased some threaded pipe and end caps, a hole saw drill bit, and will put it up just as soon as I can, hopefully today or tomorrow. I also ordered some pull-up bands, so I can really start utilizing it immediately!

    Altra Footwear Superior Trail Running Shoes

    Two very dissimilar shoes came in recently for reviews: The Altra Zero Drop Superior Trail Running Shoes are a very minimalist style, while the Under Armour Spine RPM seem more an overall fitness running shoe. I'll take them both to CrossFit as well, to see how they work in that application. One lucky reader will also get a chance to win a pair of the Under Armour's in an upcoming giveaway!

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    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    2012 Holiday Gift Guide: Recreation and Home

    Last week I posted a Holiday Gift Guide for Fitness, but we are so much more around this household, so I'm following up with a Gift Guide for recreation and home -- Enjoy!

    2012 Holiday Gift Guide: Recreation + Home


    Motorola Talkabout MT350R Radios are ideal for anytime use -- they feature reliable two-way communications, up to a 35 mile range, a flashlight (the kids LOVED that!), hands-free capability, NOAA weather channels and best of all, a weatherproof design providing protection from wet weather conditions like snow and rain splashes, as well as dust — so perfect to take on winter hiking and skiing expeditions without worries. They are also important to have year-round as part of an emergency preparedness kit. We used them to keep tabs on Tazer as he zooms around the neighborhood on his bike - such a great way for him to let us know what is going on.

    The LED Lenser P3 AFS P little keychain light from Leatherman runs on only one AAA battery and is just over three inches. With focusing options for long-distance, up-close and all points in between, this little powerhouse may just be the final word in compact lighting. Goes anywhere that you have a pocket for, in pants or backpack!

    SteriPEN is a small company on the coast of Maine. SteriPENs are used all over the world by travelers, emergency rescue workers, climbers of Mount Everest, householders, weekend hikers, and Navy seals alike. The company offers a half a dozen different models of handheld water purifiers from the original Classic SteriPEN using 4 Lithium or NIMH rechargeable batteries, to a hand-cranking version (LOOK! no batteries!), to the latest that recharge via a USB cable that can be powered from your computer, a wall outlet, or a solar panel. How do you use it? Press a button. Wait till the light blinks. Stir for 48-90 seconds, then drink up. A very simple way to ensure your safety in the outdoors, as well as your family's - don't overlook this vital piece of gear!

    Hoo-Rags are a highly useful and dynamic tubular bandanna that are a must have for all outdoors enthusiasts -- they provide an extra layer of protection and warmth. The Hoo Rag is multifunctional, acting as a bandanna, ponytail holder, headband, and (my kids favorite) a spy/ninja balaclava. Large selection of colors and designs: tartan, paisley, camo, and fishing inspired patterns. Hoo Rag also does custom and wholesale orders, so your imagination is the limitation.

    For more protection and comfort, consider carrying a survival poncho. The survival poncho from Coghlan's provides more wind and rain protection than a blanket, and also leaves the user¹s hands free. The poncho¹s hood is designed to be lower, better protecting the face and neck more than a simple rain poncho. The poncho is made of durable metalized polyethylene and has fully welded seams and is great for any outdoor adventurer to stay prepared for whatever nature throws at them. Can't be too prepared.

    The BugPatch is a safe and natural insect repellent patch that allows you to say good-bye to bugs and messy sprays. A chemical free, transdermal patch that protects kids and adults from mosquitoes, no see-ums, ticks and more. The patch is not only all natural, but also vitamin-based. Offering head to toe protection, the patch sends a stream of Vitamin B1 through the blood stream and then is secreted through the pores as you sweat and masks the odor of carbon dioxide that attracts such insects. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), we didn't get a chance to try these out, because bug season was over when these arrived, but I'm always willing to give natural products a try!

    2012 Holiday Gift Guide: Recreation + Home


    Energy Athletic Golf Shirts – made with negative ions to provide an extra boost. The unique advantage of Energy Athletic golf shirts is the exclusive IonX Ionized treatment that embeds negative ions into the structure of the fabric during manufacturing giving you increased power. I don't know what it is about these shirts, the feel, the cut, or the IonX Ionized treatment, but they are amazingly comfortable -- I even wore it running!

    Kentwool Performance Socks – blister-free guarantee and ridiculously comfortable. The rocking, innovative design is infused with a proprietary blend of Super Fine Merino Wool yarn—WINDspun by Kentwool—and combined with other premium natural and high-tech fibers. The integrated foot technology system includes a micro-climate feature which promotes wicking and comfort, and reduces friction, abrasion and muscle fatigue. Definitely one of my favorite socks for everything!


    LOVE Dragonfly Organix! The Dragonfly Organix Stain Remover (great on blood and sweat) and Dragonfly Organix All-Purpose Cleaner (perfect for vinyl, plastic, and leather sport bags, balls and equipment both work amazingly well and are a must-have in a house that has kids (or anyone else concerned about their health).


    What happens when a committed adventurer runs out of youth? Despite the fact that extreme runner Dean Karnazes claims to find ‘magic in misery,’ what you almost certainly don’t think is, “I can’t wait to try that!” Author Jo Deurbrouck might change your mind with her book, “Anything Worth Doing,” (Idaho Falls, ID: Sundog Book Publishing, 2012). The true story of adventure, friendship and tragedy on the last of the West's great rivers, the Salmon, it is a rumination on the freedom to explore the great outdoors, but also the heavy price that sometimes must be paid.

    Tristan Cooley's Natural Navigator: The Rediscovered Art of Letting Nature Be Your Guide (New York, NY: The Experiment, 2012) is one of those rare books that is simultaneously edifying and great fun to read. Looking at a windswept tree, measuring the depth of a puddle, or listening to the trill of birdsong, these clues can help us navigate in nature without reliance on GPS. Adventurer and navigation expert Tristan Gooley unlocks the directional clues hidden in the sun, moon, stars, clouds, weather patterns, lengthening shadows, changing tides, plant growth, and the habits of wildlife. This book could literally save your life one day! :)

    (Disclaimer: I was sent these items for possible inclusion in this Gift Guide. I did not pay for the items, receive payment for this post, or agree to use item in the Gift Guide. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    One Last Great Thing

    One Last Great Thing book cover

    One Last Great Thing: A Story of a Father and a Son, a Story of a Life and a Legacy (New York, NY: Free Press, 2012) is nominally the story of Richard "The Big Guy" Burke, founder of Trek, but is more a son's tribute to the father that was an integral part of his life.

    Working together at Trek, running the Boston Marathon together, following the Tour de France -- these are the big picture. Burke shares his 20 Greatest Memories with his father as he lies on his deathbed, telling the story of his father's life and memorializing him forever. Lessons learned over the course of childhood, career, and finally, death.

    About the Author: John Burke began working at Trek Bicycle in 1984 and has been president of the company since 1997. In addition to leading Trek, John served as chairman of President George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports and is a Founding Board Member of the Bikes Belong Coalition. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, John is an avid cyclist and runner and has finished Ironman Wisconsin as well as the Boston and New York Marathons.

    (Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free to review on my blog.  I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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    Monday, December 10, 2012

    CrossFit Elements Week 1

    "I may not be there yet,
    but I'm closer than I was yesterday."
    -- Author Unknown

    Overcame some fears, identified plenty of weaknesses, and started the CrossFit Elements classes at CrossFit Amplify this week, can't wait to get stronger! 3-4  weeks of learning the basic moves and skills of CrossFit, and then it will be time to start the real work.

    CrossFit Amplify

    • With this amazing weather we're having, thought about going for a run first thing, but with my first CrossFit Elements class in the evening, decided not to chance it.
    • A bit nervous, but also excited about CrossFit Elements. After my initial visit and checking out videos on YouTube, I was really looking forward to learning some of the techniques. After meeting some people (REALLY friendly folks there), I headed off with a couple of other newbies to learn how to power clean. The power clean refers to any variation of the clean where the lifter does not catch the bar in a full squat position (thighs parallel to the floor or below). Coach Sean took us step by step through the body movements that, when combined correctly and explosively, will allow us to pull the weight from the floor to a racked position across deltoids and chest. Following that we did our Workout Of the Day (WOD): 1000 yards rowing, 50 air squats, 40 situps, and 30 pushups - looks easy on paper, but it wasn't in real life. I am so weak. More Elements tomorrow night!
    • Took it nice and easy run after last night's CrossFit class, wasn't sure what to expect. Except for some soreness in one hip, definitely feels like I'm coming back from the illness of the last couple of weeks. December 3rd, 52 degrees, shorts, no gloves or jacket, really surprising, but I'm loving it!
    • For CrossFit Elements tonight, Coach Sean took us through the mechanics of a Push Press using just a barbell - so many things to remember! The Push Press is an overhead press similar to the military press; the difference is that the movement is started by a push from the legs. This begins the momentum of the movement; after the lift, the weight is then returned to the shoulders on the chest. It's not worth rushing though, as proper form will take you a lot further than just muscling through. After learning the steps, we practiced putting it together, then it was on to the WOD: 10 Minutes AMRAP (As Many Reps/Rounds As Possible) of 10 Push Presses 63#, 70 yard run. Once again, easy on paper, more difficult in real life. I ended up doing 49 Push Presses with 210 yards of running, just ran out of energy and time to finish off the last bit. Shoulders, forearms, and elbows all a bit sore after. :)

    • Pullups today, a definite weakness of mine (but everything is, pretty much at this point). We went over basic technique, then added bands to assist us -- I started with the green band, and could actually do an assisted pullup! Up next were kipping pullups, which it involve a hip snap that lifts the body with less pulling. Using the kipping pullup technique allows CrossFitters to complete more reps than a typical pullup. Another benefit over the standard version is that the kipping pullup is a full body exercise. Coach Sean had me working on those using the green and red bands - I had hoped for more assistance, but it's not supposed to be easy, right?
    • Onto the WOD: In less than 12 minutes, 5 Rounds of 5 Kipping Pullups, 10 Wallballs, 70 Yard Sprints. I completed the workout in time, though I needed to borrow my neighbor's bands (green and blue) for the last two pullups. :)
    The rest of the week and weekend I took it easy, being careful in my recovery. I don't think I'm suffering from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), because the soreness starts right away. :)

    As a CrossFit beginner, the initiation has been very humbling. Even though I always knew that I wasn't very strong, it's still a slap in the face to be shown it so graphically. So far, though, I've really enjoyed the hard work and learning new exercises, and can see this fitting into my training very easily. It's definitely needed.

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    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Day of Infamy, Runnerds, Yoga

    Last year, Congress stopped commemorating Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ("a date which will live in infamy" according to President Roosevelt), but that doesn't mean we have to stop remembering and honoring all those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Please take a moment to give thanks to those who served not only then, but the brave service men and women who serve today.

    If you're on Instagram, you've probably noticed there are often "Photo A Day" projects going on. This December, Laima and I are participating in two of them: Grow Soul Beautiful's "Yoga A Day" and Candice of I Have Run's "Runnerd Photo A Day." Instagram is fast becoming one of my favorite social media platforms, interesting to see how it will develop over time.

    Have a great weekend!
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    Thursday, December 6, 2012

    The Long Ride

    Ever ridden a bike for a really long time? Even if you're a serious cyclist, your butt probably still gets sore. For most of us, it's hard to walk after. That feeling is multiplied on a horse, as, unlike a bike, a horse has a mind of its own, and controlling it takes a lot more work. Now imagine riding a horse across the United States.

    Late 1980s, and Rainforest Crunch (a Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor for you youngsters out there) was emblematic of people's attention to and concern about the environmental degradation that was happening around the world. People were grasping at straws, unsure what could be done.

    The Long Ride

    Lucian Spataro Jr. decided to do something about it. He saddled up 3 Arabian horses, and set out on a coast-to-coast horseback ride to set a record and direct peoples' attention to the plight of the rainforest. Riding through small towns and small cities, Spataro and his team met and talked to people from all walks of life, answering their questions and working to bring awareness of the destruction of nature that was happening (and continues still).

    Starting in Huntington Beach (my hometown!), across the country to Chesapeake Beach, the statistics on this journey are staggering. 150 days, 2,963 miles, across 13 states and the District of Columbia. Three horses, 67 permits, 1 rider. What a feat of endurance!

    With missionary zeal and humor as well, Spataro recounts the journey, some 20 year later now, to remind us of what happened then and is still happening now. His love of horses, as well as the environment, shine through both the writing and the numerous photos. The Long Ride (Scottsdale, AZ: Green Rider, 2011) is a book about an effort that I did not know about and one that deserves to be shared.

    More information can be found on The Long Ride website.

    (Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free to review on my blog.  I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

    Trail Running: Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail

    Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail Lemont

    The Illinois and Michigan Canal (I and M) trail is a 96-mile along the Des Plaines and Illinois rivers. Along its banks are numerous state parks, restored historical sites, and abundance of wildlife and distinctive landscapes, ranging from bluffs to rolling hills. During construction of the I and M Canal, an exceptionally fine grade of dolomite limestone was discovered in Lemont which was mined from 1850 to 1900. After the quarry industry declined, underground springs filled the depressions, creating several fresh water lakes now referred to as the Heritage Quarries.

    Laima and I recently ran the section of the Trail that runs from downtown Lemont, Illinois, then in and around the Heritage Quarries site. For the most part, the trail is either crushed gravel, dirt, or broken-down asphalt. Sections of the trail are open to motorized traffic, which probably consists mostly of fishermen heading to the quarries or hikers and runners like us.

    Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail Lemont

    This is an easy section of trail to get to, has amenities at the Lemont end, plus several porta-potties along the way. Basically, it’s an out and back route, with several loops to keep things interesting. We ended up running around 5.5 miles, which is just about the most you could get out of it, though creative route planning could add some distance yet.

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    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    2012 Holiday Gift Guide: Fitness

    If you're reading this, chances are you're into fitness, have a loved one interested in endurance sports, or aren't sure what to get that ultrarunner in your life (who, admit it, baffles you somewhat with their early morning runs and excitement over running ungodly distances, and it's not running from danger!). The following products come from companies I use regularly, have products that often or at least sometimes break the mold, and fit right into an endurance lifestyle. Enjoy.

    2012 Holiday Gift Guide: Fitness

    The RaceReady StreamLine Tech Tee gets your music player cords out of the way when you are running, walking, hiking or working out. The patent-pending hidden channel starts at the bottom of the shirt and ends at the top -- put your iPhone, iPod or MP3 player in your pocket then feed the cord up the front of the StreamLine and off you go!

    The Yaktrax  Run is an ice traction device anatomically designed for use with running shoes. Run naturally on packed snow and ice with the Yaktrax Run's combination of removable spikes and steel coils, providing 360° of unbeatable traction. The Yaktrax Run can be worn in temperatures as low as -41° Fahrenheit, but at that point, really?

    SAXX Underwear Co. Kinetic Boxer: Developed specifically to enhance athletic comfort. The microfibre mesh structure promotes airflow and moisture transfer from skin to outer surface. A cooling and chafe resistant equation for complete kinetic energy. Flat out the most comfortable athletic briefs I've ever worn. Not just for training, I'd wear a pair of these every day if I could.

    From Summit Brands, insoles to replace tired or inadequate in your shoes. The Free-Flex Flex Shoe Insole are the first insole ever designed to work in the new category of minimalist sport shoes. They’ve given new life to my PureFlows! I used the Sport Action Insoles in my old New Balance running shoes – the are shock absorbing and offer comfort and support during my CrossFit classes.

    If you haven’t tried injinji  socks yet, you should – they are a unique design that strengthens muscles in feet and legs, offer better grip and traction, protect from blusters, and are just a whole lotta fun.

    RoadID  keeps you safe when you’re on the road, whether running or cycling. Reflective laces and wrist bands are simple ways to make yourself more visible.

    Cyclists don’t want to think about it, but sometimes you need tools to get yourself home. For those unfortunate breakdowns though, the extremely lightweight and compact Leatherman  MakoTi features nine essential tools for a road or trailside fix to get you back up and running in no time. Complete with a bottle opener for the occasional "road soda," five metric box wrenches and two spoke wrenches; this is the first bike tool that you won't even notice in your pocket!

    2012 Holiday Gift Guide: Fitness

    Not your typical sports bottle, the Camelbak  eddy is glass, naturally BPA-Free and doesn’t retain taste or odors. Grip-able silicone sleeve is stylish and protective. A beautiful and fully functional product.

    Winter or summer, sometimes you need more than a regular sports bottle to keep liquids cold or unfrozen. Enter a Wooly Mammoth Insulated bottle from Hydrapak?  The Woolly adds Prima-Loft™ between the double walled bottle to create the most advanced insulated sports bottle on the market. Tests with leading brands are no match for the performance under heat and cold. Beyond the insulation properties, the Wooly uses polypropylene, a lighter weight more flexible material, molded at varying thicknesses for strength and flexibility, which put this bottle to the top of its class. Fits most bike cages.

    For a quick bite, why not stay with a healthy snack? Nairns Oatcakes  biscuits are high in fibre. They are made with wholegrain oats to a wheat free recipe. They contain no hydrogenated fat, GM ingredients, artificial colourings, flavourings or preservatives. Suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans.

    The First Endurance PreRace Sustained Release capsules from Proline  are a revolutionary new pre-exercise supplement developed to provide endurance athletes with a potent mental and cardiac jump-start prior to races or workouts. The Pre-race formula provides all the necessary ingredients needed to increases mental stamina, increases time to exhaustion, increases maximum workload, improves mental clarity and increases oxygenation of muscles. Features include caffeine, taurine, qurcetin and a proprietary neuro-stimulant blend.

    The original CLIF Bar, updated and available for a limited time in seasonal flavors. Iced Gingerbread, Peppermint Stick, and Spiced Pumpkin Pie continue the tradition by using whole, organic ingredients. Sweet enough for dessert!

    Need more holiday flavors? How about GU Energy  Gel in Peppermint Stick?! GU Energy Gel provides athletes with a dose of 100 calories to deliver high-quality, easily-digested and long-lasting energy for athletes in every sport and at all levels. Everything inside each packet of GU is engineered to do one simple thing: provide your body with the essential nutrition it needs to keep going for miles and miles and hours and hours. It goes down easy, and it goes to work fast so you don't have to slow down.

    Check out other Gift Guides at 50 States Of Wine and Women's Endurance Gear!

    (Disclaimer: I was sent these items for possible inclusion in this Gift Guide. I did not pay for the items, receive payment for this post, or agree to use item in the Gift Guide. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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    Monday, December 3, 2012

    1000 Mile Goals: 5 Weeks Left

    At the beginning of 2012, I set two goals for myself, to both run and bike 1,000 miles this year. As of yesterday, this is how things stood:
    • Cycling: 104.5 miles left.
    • Running: 198.18 miles left.
    Monday: Off
    • Woke up feeling a bit better but back still giving twinges in certain positions. Definitely not a day to run or ride, and cancelled CrossFit for the week to make sure I'm fully ready when I start. Thinking this illness and back might be stress-related -- this holiday season hasn't been too bad, but Laima and I will be renovating our kitchen, and the design process has not been as easy as I had hoped.
    Tuesday: Off
    • Still congested, back feels better, not rushing to get back into it.
    Wednesday: Off
    • Serious back pain, but it has moved upwards, now at the back of the rib cage area. Feel like I'm falling apart.
    Thursday: Off
    • Woke up congested but a bit better, back feels stiff and achy, but better overall. If this has not cleared up by tomorrow,  a doctor's visit will definitely be in order.
    Friday: Off
    • Actually felt better, but didn't want to jinx anything. Taking it nice and easy coming back, hoping to be 100% for Monday and the first Elements session at CrossFit Amplify!

    I&M Canal Trail, Lemont

    Saturday: Run!!
    • Definitely feeling better illness-wise, though back is still somewhat sore. Thought about riding first thing this morning, but a pitch black, freezing, and windy morning made it a nonstarter. Decided to run with Laima later in the morning instead. First time running the I and M Canal, from Lemont to the East end, then back around the pits (now lakes). Amazing day for December 1, cool but not freezing, and some sun to make it cheerful!
    Sunday: Run
    • Woke up at 2:00, couldn't sleep, finally got up around 3:00, walked the dog, and went for a run. Who would have ever predicted that at 3:30 AM, December 2nd, it would be a balmy 55 degrees? I'm sincerely hoping that this is a harbinger of an extremely mild winter!
    Weekly Totals:
    • Cycling:  17.25 miles planned, 0 miles accomplished, 104.5 miles left.
    • Running: 32.5 miles planned, 9.43 miles accomplished, 188.75 miles left.
    With 4 weeks left of the year, it is hard to believe that time is almost up. Gave it a good college try, would have been a lot easier had I been consistent throughout the year. :) Still not giving up, but being realistic as well.

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    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Sony W Series Walkman Meb Keflezighi

    Sony Walkman Meb

    This Meb Keflezighi special edition 2GB water-resistant MP3 player features exclusive colors and pre-loaded audio tips, plus a Runners booklet with subjects on running, nutrition, stretching and more. This MP3 player features quick 3-minute charging, up to eight hours of uninterrupted play when fully charged and Sony Clear Audio technologies. A portion of sales goes to the Meb Foundation  in support of Health, Fitness, Education — Balance.

    Kind of unique, in my limited experience, but with a Walkman® player, you are never tied to just one music service. I plugged into our MacBook, dragged and dropped my MP3s from iTunes®, easy-peasy. Works the same way for Windows®, Windows Media Player or Internet Explorer®. A shuffle mode is a nice touch and also plays Meb's tips out of order, so that mixes it up a bit.

    Walkman Playlist

    If you're a long term reader, you'll remember that I have a hard time keeping earphones in my ears. The nice thing with these is that, with the band that connects the earpieces, the earphones are held in with some pressure -- the Walkman comes with 3 different sized earbuds, so that helps with the fit as well. Bending the band a bit allows for a slightly different orientation of the earbuds, allowing for some customized fit.

    To have a chance to win a W-series MEB Edition MP3 Player or a Sony Music Pass gift card with 25 song credits, participate in the Rock the Race with Meb, an interactive digital marathon race. Visit the Race with Meb website,  connect with your Facebook account, then follow the simple directions to get started!

    On Twitter: follow @racewithmeb and/or search for the hashtag #racewmeb.

    (Disclaimer: I was sent this item for free to review on my blog, courtesy of Sony. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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